Britt Hermes is an American former naturopath and noted skeptical campaigner, who has spent much time and effort lately in campaigning against naturopathic practices. She is the author of the blog Naturopathic Diaries.
Here she provides an update on the status of her defamation suit over naturopathy, and the Skeptics’ campaign to cover her legal expense:
In October 2017, I was served with a German lawsuit from an American naturopath named Colleen Huber, who alleges that I committed defamation against her when I criticised her cancer treatments and claims of extraordinary results. To help support my defence against this legal threat, Australian Skeptics Inc (ASI) spearheaded a fundraising campaign, to which you generously contributed. The success of this effort was astonishing: We reached our goal of raising at least 50,000 Euros ($80,000 AUS) in less than nine days! As of this week, more than $100,000 AUS has been raised over the past year. About $33,000 (20,000 Euros) has been put towards my legal fees so far. These funds have been indispensable to my case and, without them, I would not be able to defend myself. I want to share with you an update from the case.
In April 2018, a judge heard the case in Kiel. The judge reviewed the points of the case with my lawyer and Huber’s lawyer. (Huber did not appear at the hearing, nor was she required to do so.) The judge offered no ruling and informed us he would continue to review the legal briefs submitted by both sides and relevant case law. We were expecting to have another hearing by late summer 2018.
Several months later, we learned that the judge who heard the case suddenly moved to another chamber, so our case was reassigned to a new judge. Now, we are told there will be a hearing in front of this judge in early 2019, but a date has yet to be scheduled.
I have been happy with the slow pace of the German court, as it has given me respite from the stress of the case. Most importantly, I am lucky to be able to focus on my baby. On the same day that I found out I was being sued, I found out I was pregnant. Your generous support and the strong effort of ASI to organise the fundraiser allowed me to keep my stress low. I intended to keep up with my blogging, public speaking, and PhD program during my pregnancy, but severe and prolonged morning sickness made this impossible. Those who heard my Skype talk at the Skepticon 2017 conference may be amused to learn that I had a bucket by my feet, just in case!
Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (Australian science communicator) assured me that all my intense morning sickness meant that my baby was healthy and robust. Sure enough, I delivered a healthy and very strong baby girl in June 2018. Mom-life has been wonderful, but I am still struggling to balance PhD work, home life, and writing projects. To outsiders, it may appear as though the legal case has deterred me from writing. Rest assured it is just a new member of the skeptical community that keeps me away from the computer and not any specific legal concern!
In other exciting news, last month, I was awarded the John Maddox Prize for standing up for science in the face of hostility and difficulty. Australian marine biologist Terry Hughes was also awarded the prize for his research on coral bleaching due to climate change and opposition he faced in doing so. I was nominated for the prize by Prof Chris French and Dr Chris Peters. I am deeply honored to be awarded the John Maddox Prize and to stand alongside others who champion science against adversity. For me, this award means that the scientific community does not define you by mistakes but rather by responses to them.
I expect 2019 to be another action-packed year. I will return full-time to my PhD program, in which I research the genetic interplay between microbiota and their mammalian hosts. I will also start writing regularly again about naturopathy. I feel it is my ethical duty to speak out and to provide fact-based information about this elusive community that remains in the deep end of pseudoscience. Naturopaths simply make up alternative facts about medicine to profit at the expense of people’s health and safety. I fully expect my right of freedom of expression to be upheld in the German court of law.
Thank you for supporting me.
Britt Marie Hermes
If you would like more background on the defamation case, see Britt’s initial article in Naturopathic Diaries.